Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 8, 2014

Automation will have an impact on the Game Industry

At Wal-Mart when I was picking up some food, I go by the video game section (checking supply, everything is ‘sold out’ including Wii U), I see that Wal-Mart has set up its own Minecraft stand. In other words, Minecraft has the same amount of shelf space as an entire console library. In this space, they offer Minecraft Xbox 360 discs, Xbox 360 and PS+ cards, all to download the Minecraft.

Minecraft is the biggest, most influential game to come out in a long time. Minecraft has changed how gaming does its business (selling alphas) and changed the indie game scene. The sales of Minecraft cannot be denied. It is not at the level of Super Mario Brothers popularity but it is still extremely high and dominates the hearts of children. Minecraft is Nintendo’s biggest problem right now as the game is available on Nintendo’s competitors and is more appealing to kids than Nintendo’s first party games.

What I find intriguing about Minecraft is that it embraces automation in terms of procedural generated worlds. Ahem:

“But Malstrom! Procedural generated worlds cannot have the same impact as one made by a Human hand piece by piece.”

Before I address that, I’d like to point out two other big hits in the indie scene: FTL and Terraria

While the above is one person’s Terraria world, the point is that every world is different and randomly made.

Having someone embrace their ‘creativity’ to hand place each item and thing in the world would take forever and be very expensive. Ironically, it is what the player does that is hand generated while the game world is procedurally generated.

“So what are you getting at here, Malstrom?”

Aren’t video games themselves a form of automation? Nintendo and others say all this BS about video games being ‘creative’ and offering ‘surprises’ and doing ‘stuff we’ve never seen before’. But that’s not the case. A video game cannot sell unless it replicates the logical and ordered universe we experience from this world.

Kids play capture the flag in real life. But a video game offers an automated capture the flag. You play the game, but you don’t have to do the hand by hand things like run around outside. It’s all been automated.

Games like Civilization are automations of board games.

In fact, the games you think are probably all ‘hand carved’ are more likely to be generated by automation. Take Star Control II:

 

The great Star Control 2 map was actually randomly generated. The creators then went in and hand altered a few things here and there.

While I’m not sure if it was machine generated, there are interesting results when the world is made first and then the game makers had to figure out a way to fill it up. We got games like this:

Ultima 7 had so many ’empty areas’ because the developers were struggling to fill the world up with stuff. Richard Garriot that everything should be ‘hand crafted’. Using later technology, Origin was able to ‘hand make’ each area and then late connect them together into a world. The game we got doing that was this:

I think hand generated has been greatly over-valued when done by developers. When it is the player who does hand generated stuff, it becomes cool. Minecraft was procedurally generated yet people hand made a ton of stuff. The creativity wasn’t in the ‘developer’ but in the player.

Video games have turned inside out. The normal is for the player to be the creative, imaginative force in the game and the game developer to be the one who creates the automated machine. What we have now is that game developers keep trying to be the creative, imaginative force in the game, hand crafting everything, which leaves the player a game experience of dull automation. “Go to the next checkpoint for the next script sequence.”


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